Advertisement

GOP makes historic takeover in House

By MARY ANN AKERS

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 -- Rolling to victory atop the tidal wave of voter discontent with incumbents in Washington, Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives Tuesday for the first time in 40 years and made even more political history with the institution's top job. In the most startling and symbolic example of the Republicans' stunning achievement, Republican attorney George Nethercutt defeated House Speaker Thomas Foley, D-Wash. Foley has been a member of Congress for 30 years. The last time a House speaker lost an election was in 1860, the year Abraham Lincoln was nominated for president. 'It appears to me that whenall the votes are counted, we may fall a few votes short,' Foley said in his concession speech. 'There will be a somewhat prolonged counting of the absentee ballots,' he said, leaving the door slightly ajar in case of a extraordinary number of absentees. 'But the final result as it appears to me now is the 5th Congressional District of Washington will have elected a new representative in Congress.' Foley telephoned Nethercutt Wednesday and promised his full support in the transition. Nethercutt was backed by term limits supporters, the National Rifle Association and national Republican strategists who targeted the 30-year incumbent and longtime Democratic figurehead. The defeat of Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee indicted on federal corruption charges, and the ejection of Rep. Jack Brooks, another Democratic powerhouse from Texas, also stood out prominently.

Advertisement

Rostenkowski, who has proudly boasted his political immortality, conceded defeat to little-known Republican Michael Patrick Flanagan, humbly telling his supporters in Chicago, 'I've stood for election almost 45 times. This is the first time I stand and concede...and wish my opponent well.' Flanagan, like many GOP challengers in this year's overwhelming anti- incumbent, anti-Washington fever, benefited from his 'anyone but Rostenkowski' platform. The shift of power in the House documented history on several fronts. While Foley became the first speaker in more than a century to be defeated, Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., became the first Republican speaker of the House since 1954. Gingrich, who defeated Democratic former Rep. Ben Jones, credited the public's apparent discontent with President Clinton and the promises of the House Republican 'Contract With America' for the GOP victory. Although he is known for having singlehandedly averted several of the Democrats' top legislative priorities, he also appealed for bipartisanship in Congress. 'I think that we should have a different spirit coming out of this election. I think our spirit should be that the president came in office as a minority president. He offered a program,' he said. 'The program has now had a judgment rendered but he's still president for the next two years. 'We have a contract...Our spirit, I think, should be a positive outreach spirit that says the president can take our 10 bills and aren't there some of them he can be for? Aren't there some places we can be on the same team and couldn't we pass some things and get them signed early as proof?' he said. Network projections had Republicans gaining some 46 seats, well over the 40 seats needed to seize control. Democratic Party strategists had predicted their party would lose roughly 25 seats, along the lines of the historical average in mid-term congressional elections. Before Tuesday night's returns, Democrats enjoyed a 256-178 majority in the House. Final tallies Wednesday showed that the composition had changed, with Republicans now in charge of 229 seats to the Democrats' 205. Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., who stood to become speaker had Foley lost and Democrats still retained power of the House, handily defeated GOP challenger Gary Gill. Gephardt will now become the House minority leader under a Republican-controlled Congress. Early returns in two bellwether races in Indiana were among the trendsetters for the deep trouble Democrats faced across the nation. Rep. Jill Long, D-Ind., was defeated by her Republican opponent, Mark Edward Souder, by some 10 percentage points and incumbent Democrat Frank McCloskey lagged far behind his GOP challenger, John Hostettler. Disgruntled voters, in more of a referendum on the president, also said goodbye to Democratic Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, D-Pa., who was harshly criticized in her district for casting the deciding vote in favor of Clinton's budget plan. With all votes counted, the congresswoman lost to Republican Jon Fox, 49 percent to 45 percent. Democrats also had a painfully difficult time in Texas, where pro-gun advocates protested their lawmakers' support of the ban on assault weapons, and in Tennessee, where the state turned Republican virtually from top to bottom, including the governor's race and two Senate seats. Brooks, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who fought hard for Clinton's crime bill despite opposition in his district to the assault weapons ban, lost to Republican challenger Steve Stockman, 46 percent to 52 percent. Another Texas incumbent Democrat, Bill Sarpalius, lost his seat to Republican challenger William 'Mac' Thornberry, while Texas Democratic Rep. John Bryant narrowly defeated Republican Pete Sessions for the state's 5th Congressional District. Elsewhere in the Southwest, in Oklahoma, Republican J.C. Watts defeated Democrat David Perryman in the open seat left vacant by Rep. James Inhofe, who bested Democratic Rep. David McCurdy in that state's open Senate race. Final results in Kentucky, meanwhile, showed only one of two Democratic incumbents survived -- Scotty Baesler was easily re-elected but Tom Barlow was ousted by Republican challenger Edward Whitfield. The state's three Republican incumbents all won. Rep. Bill Paxon, R-N.Y., the GOP's chief House political strategist -- who was born the year Republicans lost control of the House to the Democrats -- said earlier that the Kentucky race represented 'a strong sign of the kind of night (Republicans) are going to have.' Across the Midwest and the Plains states, Republicans knocked off Democrats. In Indiana, for example -- in addition to the ousters of Reps. Long and McCloskey -- Republican David McIntosh, a former aide to Vice President Dan Quayle, defeated state Secretary of State Joseph Hogsett for the seat vacated by retiring Rep. Philip Sharp, a Democrat. In Iowa, Rep. Neal Smith was ousted by Republican Greg Ganske, while another Democratic incumbent in Wisconsin, Rep. Peter Barca, was defeated by GOP challenger Mark Neumann. In the South, meanwhile, two endangered Florida incumbents survived tough challenges. Rep. Sam Gibbons, D-Fla., who became acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee when Rostenkowski was indicted, outlasted teacher Mark Sharpe and Rep. Karen Thurman fended off retired drag-racing star Don 'Big Daddy' Garlits. In Virginia, Rep. Leslie Byrne was ousted by her Republican challenger, Thomas Davis, 46 percent to 51 percent. But other Democratic incumbents held on to their seats.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Latest Headlines

Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us

Advertisement